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AFC North 2017 Free Agency Update

Posted Mar 16, 2017

Here’s a look at the players the Steelers, Bengals and Browns have lost or acquired during the initial spending spree of free agency.

Much has changed in the early days of free agency.

The spending spree by General Manager Ozzie Newsome has been well documented, and the rivals around the AFC North have also been busy.

Here’s an overview of what the rest of the division has been up to over the last week:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Players lost: LB Lawrence Timmons (Dolphins), WR Markus Wheaton (Bears)

Players added or re-signed: WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell (franchise tag), QB Landry Jones, TE David Johnson

Overview: The top priority for the Steelers coming into this offseason was to find a way to lock up its top offensive playmakers in Brown and Bell. They checked the first item off the list by signing Brown to a new four-year contract reportedly worth $68 million. Brown wasn’t scheduled to be a free agent, but he made his desire for a new contract known, so working out the extension avoided a holdout situation come training camp. Putting the franchise tag on Bell has multiple benefits for Pittsburgh. It keeps him in black and gold for at least another year, and it affords the two sides more time to continue working towards a long-term deal.

Losing Timmons to Miami means the Steelers will move on from a quality player who has started every game over the last six seasons. Timmons is a former Pro Bowler (2014) who has been a great fit in that defense, so he won’t be an easy player to replace.

Cleveland Browns

Players lost: WR Terrelle Pryor (Redskins), quarterback Robert Griffin III (released), QB Josh McCown (released), FS Jordan Poyer (Bills) and DE Stephen Paea (Cowboys)

Players added or re-signed: WR Kenny Britt, QB Brock Osweiler, WR James Wright, OG Kevin Zeitler, C Marcus Martin

Overview: The Browns pulled off one of the biggest surprises in the early days of free agency by trading for Osweiler. Houston dealt away the quarterback just a year after signing him to a massive contract, and the Browns made it clear that the motivation for taking on Osweiller’s contract was the 2018 second-round pick they received in return for it. Multiple reports have said the Browns may quickly move on from Osweiler, and he may never even play a game for them.

The other big move for Cleveland was Pryor’s departure. The emerging receiver reportedly turned down a four-year, $32 million contract with the Browns in favor of a one-year contract in Washington worth up to $8 million. Rather than take the long-term deal, Pryor bet on himself to go with a one-year “prove it” deal and then potentially cash in next offseason. Cleveland did bring in Britt, which will help offset the loss of Pryor.  

Cincinnati Bengals

Players lost: LT Andrew Whitworth (Rams), OG Kevin Zeitler (Browns), DT Domata Peko (Broncos), RB Rex Burkhead (Patriots), DE Margus Hunt (Colts)

Players added or re-signed: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, RT Eric Winston, RT Andre Smith

Overview: The Bengals have mostly kept their wallet closed this offseason, content seeing starters leave for bigger contracts elsewhere. The most significant losses have come along the offensive line, as Whitworth and Zeitler have been the team’s most consistent offensive linemen over the last couple of seasons. Whitworth is a three-time Pro Bowler who has had plenty of battles with Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs over the years, so he will be a difficult player to replace.

Cincinnati’s most significant move was bringing back starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on a five-year deal reportedly worth $52.5 million. The former first-round pick has been a starter the last two seasons, and the Bengals didn’t want to let him walk.

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